Category: Teen

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan (InfoSoup)

The first in a series, this teen novel is a breathtaking blend of magic, witchcraft, mythology, and Victorian England. Julia is spying on the wealthy people she is pretending to work for as a maid. She is really working with the group of thieves and con artists that she was raised by in the squalid world of the Twist. Julia is an ideal spy because she has the ability to step between worlds and disappear. This well-paying job though has her spying on people who protect those who have magic from a society that drowns witches, including Julia’s own mother who was killed years ago. As the mysteries around Julia grow,  her own life is in danger and she must decide what side she is on and who she is going to become.

The world building in this book is exemplary, truly capturing a twisted version of England filled with forbidden witchcraft, people with extraordinary powers, black market deals, and a lovely touch of steampunk as well. Add in mysteries that have people being murdered on the streets who are clearly being hunted and yet bear no connection to one another, and you have a world ripe with fear for our young magic user. As the mystery is solved, more arrive so that the richness of the world continues to grow as the novel concludes.

Throughout the novel, characters turn out to be far deeper than one might expect. Readers will identify a wolf man as a character far earlier than Julia does, but his character does not end there. Aristocrats and lowly old women alike turn out to be amazing creatures. Steampunk touches herald both heroes and villains. Among this cast of characters, there is Julia who herself is incredible, not just for her powers but for her strength, her ability to be detestable at times, and her determination not to be what one expects her to be.

This is a thrilling and impressive novel that bends genres and will delight fantasy fans. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore

Flannery by Lisa Moore (InfoSoup)

At age 16, Flannery is dealing with huge issues. Her mother, an artist, is unable to pay for her biology book or heating bills. Her best friend, Amber, has a new boyfriend that Flannery does not trust because he is over-controlling and their friendship is falling apart. And now Flannery has been put into a Entrepreneurship class project with her long-term crush, a graffiti artist who seems to think he’s too cool for school. So she is left doing all of the work for their project herself. Flannery works to hold it all together, even managing to create a project that sells out: love potions. While Flannery may realize they are entirely pretend, everyone who drinks one seems to be finding love. As things start to shatter around her though, Flannery discovers who is there for her and who is not.

OK, everything I read about this book seems to focus on the love potion aspect. This book does have that, but oh my it is so much more. The writing here is strikingly unique. Moore does away with quotation marks, creating dialogue poetry on the page, the voices running together exquisitely and somehow becoming even more clear without the punctuation. That is great writing. She plays with the mysticism of love, the power of control, and the illusion of it as well.

Beyond the love potions, this is a book about a teenager finding her own strength, her own voice and her own way of living which is not about conforming at all. Flannery knows throughout the book that she is unique and in love and that everything is not what it should be. Still, there are revelations even as she lives her truth, ones that change her point of view and make her grow. That is done so naturally and organically. Beautiful.

A stunning teen read, pick this one up not for the love potions but for the deep story and strong unique heroine that you will want to meet. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (InfoSoup)

Maya was born with a terrible horoscope, one that dooms her to marry death, so no man will marry her. So Maya has been focused on her education, since she knows she will never marry. She is detested in the kingdom’s harem and spends much of her time up in the rafters where she can listen in on her father’s throne room. That is how she hears that he plans to have her married off to save the kingdom, despite her horoscope. As Maya becomes a political pawn, her father asks her for the ultimate sacrifice to give her life for peace in her kingdom. Just as Maya is about to sacrifice herself however, war arrives at the kingdom and she is dazzled by a young man she has never met before. Soon her life becomes filled with options she has never considered and magic she never knew was more than tales.

Chokshi makes this book so much more than what it sounds like above. She first creates a world filled with restrictions for women, who are seen only as sexual beings or as collateral to be used for leverage. It is a world where women fight behind the scenes for power, where spite and anger lurk constantly. It is a world of immense wealth and plenty and yet no freedom. Then, and this is what makes this book exceptional, Chokshi turns it all on its head. Readers and the main character move away from those strictures of society and are plopped into a world with its own rules. It is a world of pure power, immense magic and yet rules too.

Against those two diverse worlds, Maya is shown to be a teenager of real distinction. She manages to gain an education where it should not have been a priority. She makes a dire choice and then discovers lust and potentially love. But her path is not straight at all, it moves from princess to queen to something else entirely, something dark and thrilling. It is in that third life where she discovers real power and real love.

This daring and lush novel is filled with excellent world building and one strong teen protagonist who has to save the world. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

 

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Draw the Line by Laurent Linn (InfoSoup)

Adrian works hard to stay invisible in the high school hallways, because otherwise he seems to always get the attention of the school bullies. Adrian uses a lot of his free time drawing his superhero, Graphite and posting new stories and art anonymously to his website. He also has his two best friends who offer him some safety at school, since he is an art geek, sci-fi fan and gay. When Adrian manages to give himself a shocking haircut, he stops being invisible. Then a hate crime happens right in front of him and Adrian has to step forward and speak the truth about what really happened even if the police and others don’t believe him. It’s what any superhero would do.

This book is a dynamic mix of graphic novel, science fiction and LGBT reality. It looks at high school right now, showing that even if people know better there are still gay teens being beaten up just for being themselves. It asks the question of whether being closeted is safer or not, whether putting yourself out there is worth the risk, and whether it is ever suitable to try to be invisible. It also shows readers what a real hero looks like. The type that can’t fly or live in space, but one that walks high school halls and steps up for others.

Linn combines his writing and drawing skills in this book, giving Graphite his own look and feel. I appreciate that the art is well done, but also something that could be done by a talented high school student. It displays a sensitivity that is right in line with Adrian’s perspective as well as a certain theatrical nature too.

An amazing and unique teen novel, this book offers several heroes in and out of costume. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Daughters of Ruin by KD Castner

Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner (InfoSoup)

Four princesses have all lived together as sisters since they were small children. But they are far from being sisters, each heir to their own throne. After a war ravaged all of their kingdoms, the victor brought the daughters of his enemies together in peace to forge a new truce. Ten years later, the girls still live together but the peace between them is strained and fraying. There is Rhea, distrusted by the other princesses because her father is the king. Cadis is the beauty and the strongest fighter but there is some question about whether her democratic sea-faring society even lets her be royalty. Iren is the quiet and meek one, concentrating on long letters home to her mother. Finally there is Suki, the youngest of them and most volatile. When the peace of the palace is breached, the princesses have to choose alliances and take up arms.

Castner has created a very strong debut novel. She has not just one strong young woman but four, each of them different from the others. Castner gives them each a unique perspective and voice and yet also keeps them from becoming stereotypical in any way. These are all princesses of war, teens who have been raised to kill and damage, to defend their kingdoms and to win. While some of them are closer than others to being true sisters and friends, others are almost enemies. The dynamics of a four teenagers living closely together and isolated is intriguing and Castner captures the subtleties of it as well as the broader issues.

Castner focuses mostly on the girls themselves and the world comes into focus as the girls leave the palace and venture outside it. Because so much of the book is political intrigue, it makes for a book that truly is from the perspective of the main characters where what they are touched by is the thing that the reader knows most about. In this way, Castner also avoids lengthy exposition about the world made up by the kingdoms. There is just enough detail for it all to make sense and work and nothing more.

Strong female protagonists who wield weapons with panache combine with politics and plenty of twists and turns to create a debut worth exploring. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

 

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (InfoSoup)

Montgomery has two best friends who are the reason that she can make it through high school at all. They have a Mystery Club at school where they are the only members and they explore the mysteries of the universe. Thomas loves to talk about superheroes and Naoki focuses on crystals. With Monty’s two moms and Thomas being bullied for being gay, Monty knows there is hate in the world, something made even clearer when a preacher arrives in town putting up signs against people who are gay. When Monty buys The Eye of Know online, she doesn’t expect it to work any better than their other experiments, but soon the Eye seems to be channeling Monty’s personal anger and exacting revenge.

Tamaki captures the anger of a teenager with precision here. It all feels deeply organic, often not being logical at all, lashing out at those she loves, and withdrawing into her room. The issues that Monty is furious about are so tangible both in her life and in her friendships, yet she goes much farther than those who love her would want her to. There is a sense of her reaching a cliff of anger and having to make a choice of how she is going to be in the world. It’s a powerful place to set a YA novel and works well.

The magical realism in the book is done well too. It strikes a balance between being entirely believable but also allowing readers to see it as something that could be unrelated too. Readers will get to see what their own opinions of mysteries of the universe are in this well-written novel.

A novel about anger and its positive and negative sides, this book will speak to young teens navigating their own issues. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

 

 

 

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winners Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (InfoSoup)

This is the third and final book in the Winner’s Trilogy. Arin is now fighting to keep his country from once again falling into the hands of the Valorians. He has a new alliance with the Dacran queen who has sent her brother to monitor the war and Arin. Arin is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t love Kestrel anymore after she rejected him so clearly. Kestrel is being sent to a work camp where no one knows who she is. She mines sulfur by day, her strength increased by a drug in the food and water. At night, another drug allows her to sleep without thinking of what she has lost. Even drugged though, Kestrel cannot help but try to escape. When news comes of Kestrel’s death from disease in a remote area, Arin refuses to believe it. Then he gets a whisper of her true circumstances and sets off to find her. But it may be far too late for them.

Rutkoski has managed to keep this romantic fantasy trilogy entirely engaging and powerful through the entire series. In this third book, readers will once again discover her skill in writing battles and fight scenes which do not scrimp on blood, sweat and emotions. She is also highly skilled in creating a world that feels real with the various kingdoms at war and two people caught between them.

And then there is the romance as well. Here readers who adore Arin and Kestrel get to watch them reconnect and rebuild what was stolen from them. It is a romance of timid and tender beginnings, false starts and sudden flares of passion. It is written with a delicacy that is beautiful, particularly against the backdrop of war, personal risk and sacrifice.

A glorious end to a remarkable fantasy romance trilogy, fans will need to know how the story ends. Now we can look forward to what is next from the talented author. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.